Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Unboxing: Swarovski CTC Draw Scope

What 'drew me' to the draw scope? Boom Tsh! I'm here all week.

While I've not been posting much lately I've been preparing for a couple of adventures, working, and the Elfa is Spanish, er lets just leave it at that. Currently I'm off work with a bad back so I may have jinxed it all.

For the next trip I'll need to see the deer a fair way across open country, and on the one after we'll be mapping an orchard that encompasses a whole hillside, where terrain permitting we'll be scouting out a space for a 200m+ .22LR range. I've used a pair of Eden 8x42 binos for the last few years and don't see the point in upgrading them, they are so close to perfect I'm more likely to buy a spare pair. While the 8x42 class is wonderful for woodlands, they don't help so much as things get a bit further away. I wanted a decent spotting scope. 

The tools of a hunting guide have moved on from dressed in rags, lives on wallpaper paste and government cheese but owns a pair of $2000 binoculars, now he has a prismatic spotting scope, and prices have moved on from $2,000 too.  It's really become the must-have tool for guides working big landscapes, they are a wonder of engineering. At my place al wildlife in within bio range, at the Elfa's there are all sorts of things you could see. You can also attach an appropriately shaped piece of plastic which lets you clip on your smartphone to record proceedings or even attach a DSLR camera, if you've got any money left after buying it in the first place. Cheap they aint. I was stumped. 

When the chance to borrow the entry level  Swarovski CTC in 30x75 came up, I said 'thanks a lot' and slunk away to look this gift-horse in the mouth.
I'd seen a few pictures of Scots Ghillies in tweed Deerstalker hats using the traditional draw scope but I'd not considered one before. I actually didn't know Swarovski made one, I don't really associate them with anything so low tech. Seems sometimes simplicity is practicality personified. Prismatic scopes are weighty in the hand and need a tripod if you are to get comfortable. Whereas the draw scope is almost half the weight of the smallest prismatic scope.

Glassing the hill Ghillie style, seen from a distance in this position the keepers body loses its 'human' outline and the estate-tweed becomes environment specific camo, blending in to the landscape. 

Bisley 600 yards .308 target sights. Keep scrolling in, 600 yards is a long way, a very long way

While a tripod is almost essential for the range, where you're leaving the scope pointed in one place, out in the campo a draw scope rests so well on your knee, a fencepost or the top of a pack.  It's far more go-anywhere. There really isn't a lot to go wrong, with prismatic scopes all that precision gearing that feels so smooth in your hand,  is another thing to go wrong, jam or need costly servicing. The draw scope is two tubes and some O rings. Doesn't hurt that its literally half the price of their bottom of the range prismatic scope.
As you can see you don't get a lot in the box, a telescope, a cleaning kit, strap, and case with end caps. I thought the lens caps were missing but a quick read of the inventory shows Swarovski, relying on the case's covers, have done away with them. Not too sure how I feel about that.
How's it to look though? Goes without saying  Swarovski is the Shizzle!

"Buy the best scope you can, spend the change on a rifle" - attirb. Richard Prior

I've been spending a few evenings shooting .22 prone in a jacket, I can hit the targets well enough if I can get comfortable in the straightjacket, some weeks it's a big 'if' so discomfort lead me to the club's other shooting discipline: Lightweight Sporting Rifle, which has frustrations of its own.
"It ain't braggin' if yer really done it" v's  'It is a fluke if you only done it once'

LSR is ten round groups at 25m standing, no sling. With ranges stretching out in stages to a remarkable 400m!! Yep 400m with .22LR !! The two main choices of rifle are tricked-out 10/22's or AR15's  with dedicated .22 LR uppers by CMMG or Spikes. So far I prefer the ergonomics of the AR's.  I love the idea of .22 LR at 400m; its technical challenges are fascinating, it's ammo costs are bearable.  Most of my shooting experience has been of the dinner-bell kind with fixed power scopes,  so the bewildering technical aspects of today's scopes are all new to me. I found this guide to long range scopes about the clearest writing on the subject. I'm still nowhere near making my choice yet, and all the budget is spoken for by another project which I'll let you know about in the next few weeks.

Please: Never ever scan the terrain though a rifle scope with the bolt closed, just don't risk it.

More soon
You pal

Picture credit for the Ghillie and the estate

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Unboxing Review: The Bush Buck Big Four

Well well well all those nice things I've been saying about New Zealand must has brought me some good Kiwi-Karma. Very good Kiwi-Karma. Toby from Bush Buck got in touch about his Big Four jacket. and was kind enough to send one for testing.

The saga of the search for that holy grail of jackets; Lightweight and Cheap and Durable and Quiet and Waterproof has long preoccupied me, and has never been truly achieved. I've fallen in and out of love with Ventile, its wonderfull stuff but its not as waterproof as its champions would have you believe, I've owned and loved some really nice wool hunting jackets from the US and NZ, but the lack of water resistance, its  ability to absorb 1.5 times its dry weight in water, and a series of unprovoked Moth attacks left me ready to explore synthetics.

As longterm readers may remember I did try to commission some alterations to a coat I really like, just a few tweeks to my own recipe - a service offered on the companies website, but was thwarted by the brand's angry proprietor. Twice. LINK 

The last coat I spent my heard-earned on that I've been really pleased with is the Hill Smock by NomadUK. Its a kind of thick fleece Kameez with taped seams - literally outdoor pyjamas. I would wholeheartedly recommend them.  Quiet, Lightweight, Durable (so far) and Waterproof. Cheap never came into it.

Meanwhile down under; New Zealand's hunters have developed their own hunting traditions and clothing to match the climatic conditions. no wooden capes and lederhosen for them, I guess their river fording's are a little deeper than Scotland as they've shortened Breeks (aka Plus Four's - as in four inches bellow the knee) to, well , shorts really and its the home of the hunters smock. I really like the smock concept, they keep the elements at bay in a way waist length jackets can't match. Toby sent me some pictures of his design and he's got most of the things I want a smock/coat to have.

Toby calls his jacket The Big Four. I'd assumed the big four were NZ's famously changeable seasons, but they turn out to to be Fishing, Bird Shooting, Deer Stalking and Pig hunting. My interest was piqued. A coat that will cover all bases, from super active to sedentary is quite a big ask, so I was keen to give it a go.

Fishing; in my experience usually takes place sitting on damp pebbles being lashed by wind and sprayed by surf. The minimum you can expect to get away with is damp buttocks. The longer cut of the Big4 would come into its own.
Bird Shooting; It's a well worn fact that I'm a complete lummox with a shotgun, from a design perspective as swing is the name of the game, any jacket for bird shooting must give a lot of freedom across the shoulders - bodes well for archery and beachcasting.
For Deer Stalking quiet and windproof will be appreciated- first you're sneaking, then you're sitting, sometimes for a long time.
Pigsticking; looks like beating only more so, you've got to follow the dogs wherever they take you, penetrating the briars and brambles. Any jacket that will survive that kind of punishment is tough.

First Impressions:

Long enough to sit on.
The hood is more than a nod to fashion, its cut to give cover without compromising peripheral vision, has a wire in the rim which despite being a fairly old idea is still missing from some hoods.

Its made in the same way as a US airforce issue jacket I've got somewhere, the layers of material are bonded together and then the seams are welded. I think its fair to say it will not leak.

Neoprene cuffs under storm cuffs, these really work for me. Toby has designed the cuff with a slight dart, which stops the inner edge of the cuff from snagging. Me Likee.

Pit-Zips - these are the first thing I'd add to my wish list, when you're active but its pissing down you'll not want to undo the front zip but you do need to regulate your temperature, pit zips are the way to go.

At first sight I thought the chest/binocular pockets looked a little small, but they're actually big enough for my Eden 8x42's (still blown away by these binos 3 years later, best affordable glass by miles)

I'm not a believer in drain holes on packs and rucksacks, but on a jacket that will be worn fording streams they come into their own.

So far I'm very happy with the BigFour, and in a surprising turn up of events both the Ex Mrs SBW and the Evil Elfa have commented favourably on how much smarter I look than usual, which has I suppose been an unintended consequence, but in a good way for a change! I'm not due to get out of town for the next few weekends so so a full foul-weather test will have to wait.

Toby's new website has gone live

More soon
Your pal

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Dan Price's Bushcraft Hobbit Home

I spend a lot of time daydreaming about living off grid, in the kind of camps I built as a kid. Dan Price author of 'Radical Simplicity: Creating an Authentic Life'  has been living in this cluster of hobbit houses for over twenty years. Katie Felber's film is a charming glimpse into the lifestyle of someone who actually did pair it all back to reveal the simple life.

your pal